1. SETTING THE PURPOSE OF YOUR WEBSITE
How do you get clear on the purpose of your site?
Grab a pen and paper or create a new document and write down the answers to these questions.
2. Set your website goals
Goals give focus and direction; they are a benchmark for success and motivate you. – something to aim for. What goals do you have for your website in the next year? How many visitors do you want, how many products sold, how many newsletter signups? Setting specific, measurable goals at the beginning of the process ensures you have them in mind when designing your website and so are more likely to hit them.
Smart goal setting
I like to use a method called SMART when I’m setting my goals.
3. Define your target audience
Getting clear on your ideal customer helps you to visualise who you are creating the site for. Then you can keep them in mind at every step of the design process – your design, your copy, and your user experience to ensure it would appeal to them. This, in turn, will help you target your online marketing. When you’re buying targeted adverts from platforms like Facebook, you can really focus in on who you’re selling to and get the most return from your investment.
When defining your ideal client, ask yourself these questions.
4. Decide on Page Content
What pages do you want on your website? You might just need a home page and put everything on there, or you could have a large website with lots of functionality. Still, for most new sites, the following pages will be more than enough to get you live.
To help you decide on yours, brainstorm and write down everything you could possibly need on the website. Don’t worry about how you will achieve it, just write it all down. Now go back and refine the list. Keep it simple, do you need all those pages? Could any be amalgamated? Too many pages make a cluttered website, and it’s just going to confuse the user. Especially if you’ve got pages that do similar things or pages with two lines of text on. You want all of your pages to be relevant and have plenty of content for your user.
Naming your pages
Now, look at the names of your pages. I know it’s tempting to try and be clever or make them applicable to your specific business or industry, but would your visitor understand what it means? How about someone who spoke minimal English? Try to use generic names, the navigation of your website is not a place to be creative. Try to choose short, descriptive names, preferably one word, for example, ‘Portfolio’ instead of ‘Previous work’.
5. Define Navigation
The navigation is how your visitor will get around your website- the menus and search bars. If well designed, it will direct your visitors exactly where you want them and keep them on your site as long as possible.
Where should you put your website navigation?
There are three main navigation areas on a website.
Think about your pages and which navigation area each one should be in. Look at other sites to get ideas and see what’s standard. Your key pages should be in your header, with less visible pages like delivery information and legal documents in your footer. Think about how your visitor will use your site and don’t forget that they may come to your website via a page other than the Home page. Make sure they can find there way around, no matter where they begin. The more engaging and effortless your navigation is, the more time that users will spend on your website.
Finally, think about the order you want your pages. I like to put my most important pages as the first and last items on the menu as these are the most clicked items.
6. Finalise Functionality
Now you have your list of pages, what do you want on each of them? Do you need a newsletter signup box, a list of products, a map, your Instagram feed, a contact form? Do you want a blog? Comments on the blog? Search in the menu? Brainstorm again, looking at other websites for ideas to come up with a big list. Then refine and prioritise them so that the most important things are at the top. Don’t worry right now if you know how to achieve it. So, for example, if you want to show your Instagram posts on your website, but you don’t know how to do that just yet, that’s fine. Just take one step at a time.
Refine the list and decide what should live on which page. For the top 2 actions, check that your visitor can find them in one click. If one of your top two functions is ‘sign up to your newsletter’, then ensure it’s not buried at the end of a blog post, and put it either the first or the last page of your navigation. As we talked about before, they’re the highest converting pages. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your visitor can find everything you want them to do in three clicks, if they can’t find it within three clicks, then they’re probably not going to do it.
7. Create a mockup for each page
The Mockups don’t have to be fancy – a simple sketch is adequate. Use the list of functions you’ve just compiled and decide what you want on each page. What content do you need? Where are you going to put your copy? Where are you going to put images? Take a look at the websites your ideal customer would go to (they don’t have to be the same type of website as yours) and have a look at how they lay things out and what they have on their pages (but don’t copy!).
Once you’re clear about what you want on the page, create a mockup of the layout. Don’t worry about the design (font’s, specific images, etc.) at this point, this is just the layout or the wireframe.
Laying out each page at this stage will make it much easier for you or your designer to create the pages later on.
When finished look at your page mockups together, do they make a website that is aligned with your goals and target audience? Is the layout consistent?
I hope splitting down this process into easy to digest steps helps you to plan your website, you don’t have to spend too long on it, just get all your ideas down and then refine them. I like to do this exercise one day and come back and review the next.
Do you have any other website planning tips or questions? What’s been most helpful for you when planning a website?